Walker Brault has been active in serving his local church—Wesley United Methodist in Winona—and the Minnesota Conference in a variety of ways. For a while now, he’s felt like he might be called to ministry, and he’s looking forward to exploring that call this summer.
Brault is one of eight young adults, mostly college students, who will spend two months this summer participating in a hands-on learning experience through the Exploring Leadership Internship (ELI) Project. Each intern will be assigned to a host church and paired with a clergy mentor at that church.
Brault, a freshman at Hamline University in St. Paul, will intern at Detroit Lakes United Methodist Church.
“I’m excited to see ministry in a different place and different context and get outside of my comfort zone,” he said.
The ELI Project, now in its second year, aligns with the conference’s desire to create a culture of call that actively encourages young adults to explore how God is calling them to build the kingdom. Last summer, eight interns spent two months interning at host churches throughout the state.
After gathering for a week of orientation during the first week of June, which will include trips to seminaries and an opportunity to learn about the United Methodist Church, each intern will spend June and July at his or her host church and gain experience in a wide variety of ministerial contexts. All 2016 interns will have the opportunity to:
• Preach and/or lead a Bible study or devotional
• Plan worship
• Be involved in a social justice or outreach ministry
• Observe leadership governance at a host site
• Provide pastoral care
Earlier this year, college students and local churches were invited to apply to participate in the ELI Project this summer. A team of clergy and laity selected interns and host churches from the pool of applicants. Interns will receive a $3,000 stipend, $2,000 of which will come from the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry and $1,000 of which the host church is expected to provide.
Brault doesn’t know exactly what his internship will look like, but he’s particularly interested in youth ministry because it helped him grow in his own faith. He also feels passion around reaching new people for Christ and engaging younger generations.
“For most young people, it’s not that they don’t have faith—it’s that what they’ve grown up with is not a good reflection of what faith can be,” he said.
Rev. Brenda North, pastor at Detroit Lakes United Methodist Church, said her congregation applied for an intern partly out of a desire to give back. “We’ve benefited from strong pastoral leadership over the years, and now we want to help develop and nurture future leaders,” she said.
North, who will be Brault’s clergy mentor, said that while she certainly hopes he learns a lot from her, she also looks forward to learning from him.
“I hope and pray that he’ll experience God using him in powerful ways, and I want to share with him the everyday joys of ministry,” she said. “He’ll bring to us a fresh perspective about what’s working and new possibilities for us. I’m also hoping he can help mentor youth and young adults in our congregation who are exploring their own call.”
The first year of the ELI Project was made possible thanks to a $60,000 grant that the Minnesota Conference received in 2014 through the global United Methodist Church’s Young Clergy Initiative, which aims to increase the number of young clergy leaders. Members of the 2015 annual conference session voted to increase the 2016 conference budgetin order to continue the program for another year.
Interns and host churches
The 2016 ELI Project interns—along with their host churches, their schools, and their home churches—are:
Interning: Hastings UMC with Rev. Chris Kneen
School: University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire
Home church: Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC
Interning: Detroit Lakes UMC with Rev. Brenda North
School: Hamline University (St. Paul)
Home church: Wesley UMC (Winona)
Interning: New City Church (Minneapolis) with Rev. Tyler Sit
School: St. Olaf College (Northfield)
Home church: Harvard-Epworth UMC (Cambridge, MA)
Interning: Living Spirit UMC (Minneapolis) with Rev. Donna Dempewolf
School: College of St. Benedict (St. Joseph)
Home church: Woodbury Peaceful Grove UMC
Interning: Christ UMC (Maplewood) with Rev. Rachael Warner
School: Ridgewater College (Willmar)
Home church: St. Aloysius Catholic Church (Olivia)
Interning: Richfield UMC with Rev. Pam Serdar
School: Winona State University
Home church: Blaine UMC
Interning: Wesley UMC (Winona) with Rev. Dale Arendt
School: Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evanston, IL)
Home church: Emmanuel UMC (Evanston, IL)